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22 Jun 2023

Advocating for a workplace where no one has to choose between career growth and parenthood

Kate Fallon IWED Banner

In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day, we were thrilled to have the chance to engage in insightful conversation with some of our talented women engineers at Kent.

Kate Fallon, Senior Technical Safety and Risk Engineer shared with us her experiences as an engineer. She discussed the importance of striking a balance between career and motherhood and emphasised the need for greater support and encouragement for women in engineering.

What made you choose a career in engineering?
I finished high school at 17 with my highest marks in mathematics and chemistry so a teacher suggested I study Engineering. When I looked at the number of women studying Engineering, Chemical Engineering had the highest percentage of female graduates and that was actually a key decision in choosing to study Chemical Engineering.
What are the advantages/challenges of being an engineer in a male dominated industry?
Let’s be honest, Engineering and Oil and Gas has always been a “mans world”. As a graduate, I would be in meetings and workshops and asked if I was the receptionist or HR. But in the past 10 years there has been a huge shift in promoting women and ensuring we acknowledge and celebrate their successes. My current manager on the project is a woman and she is one of the best bosses I have worked with.
Choosing to be both an engineer and a parent I find often presents unique challenges to women. Women will usually take maternity leave when they have a baby. I know women that have felt rushed to return to their positions otherwise they would be overlooked for promotions or career progression. I know women whose employers have made the assumption that their interests would now be with their kids and not their jobs and subsequently given smaller roles on projects.
We need to support engineers that choose to be mothers and encourage their return to work when they are ready without holding their careers back or penalising them. We need to acknowledge that women, regardless of parenthood, are as much a part of the workforce and as important as the men who did not take any parental leave.
In recent years I have seen companies install creches and offer flexible working arrangements to allow employees to be mothers as well as be part of the workforce which is truly amazing.
I am very fortunate to work for Kent that is a company that embraces women and allows them the flexibility to do their job and do it well as well as be a mother.
Is enough being done to promote/encourage women in engineering?
There could be a bigger push at the high school or university level to promote young women to study engineering. A few years after I graduated, some universities were offering women scholarships to study and there are now STEM programs in high schools which is great. But there is still more that can be done.
I joined WISE (Women in Subsea Engineering) and they hold regular events to celebrate women which is a great way to bring people together.
What has been your biggest win throughout your time at Kent?
Joining a man-only team, where I am currently the only female, and for the junior engineers to realise they can approach me for advice. I regularly look to support them by sharing my experience and knowledge. Hearing from them on their own work and career journeys and sharing my own perspective allows for transparency and open conversations which has created a great team dynamic.
What does this year's ‘Make Safety Seen’ theme mean to you as an engineer?
Well as a Safety Engineer, I think Safety should be seen in every aspect of the job. And combining the two things makes me, well me!
We don’t want safety to be taken for granted or overlooked. We don’t want people to roll their eyes when they receive an invite to a safety workshop. We want everyone to be interested and more so invested in safety. Everyone deserves to be part of a workplace that insists everyone goes home safely. It needs to be part of the workforce, the culture, everywhere. Safety needs to be seen!

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